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Fever In Infants

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Well, the office was full of kids of all ages with fevers today, so the topic was indeed timely. They all just had fever and a presumed viral infection and no one was very sick, but they sure had hot little bodies. Pushing lots of Gatorade, popsicles, and ice cream today as a remedy for fever (along with their Tylenol and Advil or Motrin). Made lots of points with my little patients today with that prescription.

But, fever in an infant is another story. One of the reasons that we try to limit an infant’s exposure to large groups of people for the first two months is related to risk of infection. An infant who runs a fever is much more perplexing to a pediatrician. A very sick infant may only have a temperature of 100.6 degrees and not show other signs of an infection like an older child would. Any infant under two months of age with a fever should be seen by their pediatrician for evaluation and possible hospitalization for their fever. Obviously a completely different story than an older child who is treated with fever medication and watched for several days before being seen. Once a child reaches the age of eight to 12 weeks it is easier to “read” them a little better, as they have begun to smile and are more responsive, which enables us to judge their behavior a little better.

The older a child gets, the easier it is to gauge their responsiveness while sick, which is one of the most important aspects of evaluating a sick child. Every time a pediatrician walks into a room with a sick patient the doctor is watching that child, whether they are sitting on their Mom or Dad’s lap, or playing on the exam table, or even if they are playing with a sibling, etc. A lot of the exam is done before even touching the child. Sick children do not even turn to look as you enter the room, and there are not tears of apprehension. A child who “fights’ during the exam is usually reassuring to the pediatrician.

Every new parent should have a thermometer on hand as this is the one item that you will use throughout parenting. They don’t need to be fancy or expensive, they are all useful. I still use digital thermometers at my house, and little ones love learning how to read the numbers!

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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